One of the best celeb books ever written. Marion Davies (pictured above) was a doll.

This from regular reader Mike Sheridan, and he’s not far off the mark. Sheridan is referring to Marion’s very personal 1975 memoir — The Times We Had: Life With William Randolph Hearst.

You could think of Marion Davies this way. Recall the Susan Alexander character in Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane? You know, the aspiring opera singer (played by Dorothy Comingore) who was pushed way beyond her artistic limits by her media-mogul sugar-Daddy determined that he was not about to made to look ridiculous.

Well, that character was loosely — very loosely — based on Davies, the longtime lover of William Randolph Hearst. She and the press magnate were inseparable for 32 years until his death in 1951. Although Welles denies that the Comingore character was not directly based on Marion Davies, the comparisons are inevitable.

Yet, in his introduction to Davies’ memoir, Welles wrote this: Marion Davies was one of the most delightful accomplished comediennes in the whole history of the screen. She would have been a star if Hearst had never happened. She was also a delightful and very considerable person.  The proof is in this book, and I commend it to you.

Nice to hear reader Sheridan and Orson Welles in agreement, especially because The Times We Had really is a remarkably wide-ranging personal account with its share of surprises. One had to do with Ingrid Bergman, an actress at least a generation removed from Davies.

Those of a certain age might recall le scandale de Bergman in 1950 when, although married to someone else at the time, the Swedish-born actress began an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. The upshot was a movie, the not terribly good Stromboli, and the birth of the couple’s out-of-wedlock son, Renato.

Remember, this was back in 1950.  Such things were simply not done in public, even in Europe and especially in Italy. Back in the U.S., Bergman’s Hollywood career was put in peril. She found herself being denounced from the floor of the U.S. Senate as some sort of degenerate. Ed Sullivan refused to have her as a guest of his CBS variety show.

Someone noticed all this, and that someone was Marion Davies. Here’s what she wrote:

I didn’t know Ingrid Bergman at all, but when I discovered the difficulty she was in, I called up the (Hearst owned) Los Angeles ‘Examiner’ to put in an article saying that I agreed with her. 

She was persecuted; I would say that they nailed her to a cross. If a woman of her great character can go ahead with her love, why should she be criticized…She was a great person with a beautiful face.

Final note: Bergman did not get married to Rossellini supposedly because her first husband would give the actress a divorce.  William Randolph Hearst and Davies never married because his wife would never legally terminate the marriage.

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